Protecting the interests of future generations

Governments, parliamentarians, and policymakers tend to talk up the importance of protecting future generations; but in practice, they face significant pressure to favour the interests of current populations. This is partly because they need to respond to the demands of voters, which is a healthy sign of a functioning democratic system. However, it is also driven in part by impact assessment processes which are based around the interests of current actors; and by the sheer difficulty of identifying and analysing very long-term impacts reliably. Is there a bias towards the interests of current generations? If so, do we need to correct it, and how?

A new IEEP report for the World Future Council launched today looks at experience gained with the creation of roles and institutions in different countries aimed at improving the generational equity of decision-making. In the report we identify some key gaps in decision-making processes at EU level; and offer suggestions for how those gaps could be filled by creating a new role identifying and advising on risks to the interests of future generations.

Creating long-term security for such a function, ideally through incorporating it in the EU Treaty or alternatively through legislation, has clear benefits in terms of enabling a Guardian to provide clear, fearless advice. Wide institutional and political buy-in is an important pre-condition for success, and would need to be developed.

In the short term, there are risks that current proposals for better regulation could entrench a tendency not to address longer-term challenges properly, so we suggest adapting those proposals to ensure that the interests of future generations are considered.

For more information on the report and our work in this area, please contact Martin Nesbit (mnesbit@ieep.eu) and Andrea Illes (ailles@ieep.eu)

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